Friday, March 17, 2017

1441 Main Street - Former Safeway

Place: Former Safeway Store
Address: 1441 Main Street
Architect: Wurster, Bernardi and Emmons
Opened: April 13, 1965
Size: Approx. 20,000 sq ft

When American grocery giant Safeway came to Canada in 1929, setting up their head office in Winnipeg, they brought with them a number of innovations to the retail grocery industry.

One was the “cookie cutter” store. All Safeways were built from scratch with the same exterior design and floor plan so that customers knew it was a Safeway instantly and that the same products could be found in the same locations, regardless of which store they went to. This lasted until the late 1960s.

Another was that Canada Safeway Ltd. owned their properties through an arm's length company and leased the stores back. This allowed for great flexibility when the retailer released new store models and needed to either move on to a bigger site or demolish old buildings.

Decamber 13, 1929, Winnipeg Tribune

The first Safeway in this area of the city was a block away from 1441 Main Street at Atlantic Avenue.

It was part of the second wave of Safeway stores built and opened on December 14, 1929. It was likely expanded in the 1930s or 40s as the building appears to be wider than other 1929 - 30s Safeways that still exist.

Top: December 18, 1950, Winnipeg Free Press

When the next generation of store was approved by head office the Main Street location was one of the first to be replaced. It was actually built on the next block, across Luxton, so that there was no interruption in business to Safeway customers when it opened on  December 19, 1950. 

This new Safeway cost about $125,000 before fixtures. It offered a self-serve meat department, eight check-out counters and off-street parking. To maximize floor space, many of the 1950 stores included a basement stock room. (The Food Fare at Portage and Burnell still retains the 1950s Safeway store look.)

In the 1960s, this location was notable for being the only Winnipeg store to be open from 9 am to 9 pm, six days a week. The others closed at 6 pm during the week and at at 9pm on Fridays and Saturdays.

North America cities saw a huge growth in suburban development in the 1950s and 1960s. Safeway's architects were tasked with finding a way to make their stores stand out to motorists who were now speeding by on regional roads and freeways.

Their solution was the eye-catching "Marina style" store, named after the location of the prototype which opened on Marnia Boulevard in San Francisco in 1959. Its unusual design included a front wall of glass and curved roof line. One variation of the Marina style was the so-called "gull wing" because of the upturn at the extremities of the roof.

A number of Marina style stores, perhaps a dozen, were constructed in Winnipeg in the early 1960s. Only a handful had the gull wing.

April 12, 1965, Winnipeg Tribune

This store was part of a wave of new Safeways being built around the city at the time and opened on April 13, 1965. It was built in the "back yard" of the existing store, some of the site was former industrial land left over from the city's street car terminal.

Once opened, the old store was demolished to provide the expansive parking area. The total site is approximately 1.4 acres in size.

Over the decades these Marina style stores were sold off as the grocer added larger, regional stores to its chain. They include: Ellice and Wall, the first Marina-style store built in the city which has been extensively renovated; Dakota Shopping Centre, (now Family Foods); Regent Avenue (now extra Foods) and Mountain and McGregor.

This store, however, was one of the last Marina style stores still inhabited by the retailer. (The other is Salter Street, which is still a Safeway, though it does not include the "gull wing" variation.)

February 14, 2014, Winnipeg Free Press

After Sobeys bought out Canada Safeway in 2013 the chain was required to sell this and three other Winnipeg stores to appease the Competition Bureau. Soon after, Red River Co-op announced that it would take over all of them, returning to the local grocery business after a more than 30-year absence.

When Co-op tried to renew its lease in May 2016 it was turned down and the building's future was again in doubt.

On February 10, 2017, The North West Company announced that 1441 Main Street will become Winnipeg's 15th Giant Tiger store. It is expected to open on November 18, 2017.

There's no word on what renovations to the store's interior or exterior will be done for the new tenant. As seen in the above links, the unique architecture of many of these Marina style Safeways has lived on with new owners and tenants, while others, such as at Ellice and Wall, have been renovated so much that they are unrecognizable.


North West Company media release of 1441 Main (Feb. 2017)
Red River Coop Announcement about closure (May 2016)

Winnipeg to lose another Marina Style Safeway? Dumplings (Jun 2016)
For more images of the Main and Luxton store, see my Flickr Album!


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